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Recycling Figures Reveal Slow Progress

Latest statistics released by Defra have revealed the UK’s household waste recycling rate is rising at a slow pace, with some questioning the certainty of whether we will reach the 50 per cent target, set out in the EU’s Waste Framework Directive, by 2020. With further austerity measures announced for local authorities, tough challenges lie ahead for waste and recycling services.

The latest statistics, released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that the UK’s household waste recycling rate has risen from 44.1% in 2013 to 44.9%  in 2014, an improvement of just 0.8%. The data has been submitted to the European Commission ahead of a summer 2016 deadline and brings together the overall recycling figures for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Since 2010, the household recycling rate in the UK has increased by 4.5 percent, which is half of the increase needed to meet the EU targets. However, progress has been slow over the last three years, with rises of just 0.2% the previous year, leading some to suggest that the target is becoming unachievable.

The figures show a clear split in performance across the UK. Wales has had the highest recycling rate in each of the five years since 2010, and in 2014 recorded a rate of 54.8 per cent, compared to England’s 44.8%, 43.6% in Northern Ireland and Scotland’s 41%. This is 10.8 percentage points higher than Wales’s 2010 rate.

Whilst England is responsible for a vast proportion of UK household waste, generating 22.4 million tonnes of the UK’s 26.8 million total in 2014, the English rate has risen by just 3.6 percentage points since 2010, compared to 8.5 for Scotland and 5.6 for Northern Ireland.

In light of the announcement in November that local authority funding will more than half in the latest round of spending cuts, David Adams, Clarity’s Managing Director, said these figures reveal the pressure faced by local councils:

“More efforts need to be made to ensure we meet the 2020 target, especially as it could be followed by an even more challenging target if the EC’s circular economy package proposals are approved. With five years of cuts already experienced by councils, our waste and recycling services are in the grip of austerity measures. With more cuts on their way and trials of fortnightly and three-weekly collections, councils will face some tough challenges if we are to meet these targets.”

He added that he has seen first hand the problems that reduced services can create in our location of Brighton: “Unfortunately many people will only recycle if it is made easy for them. Where I live we have fortnightly collections of recyclables. This sends the wrong message to residents and means those that recycle effectively are left with bins that are overflowing. I take mine to a recycling centre, but many people simply won’t go the extra mile and waste that could have been recycled will go to landfill.

“The UK is going to have to find creative solutions to ensure we increase recycling rates at a faster pace,whilst our services continue to face cutbacks. It is not going to be easy but there are clearly lessons to be learnt and best practice to be shared across the UK to ensure England makes its proportionate contribution to the UK’s recycling performance over the next five years.”

We have a heritage in the waste and recycling industry that goes back over 80 years and can provide a full range of waste management and recycling services to increase recycling levels and reduce waste disposal costs. Contact us on 0845 129 7177 to find out about our range of services and solutions to meet all of your waste diversion needs.

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